The Detroit Lions are getting a little bit of help back on Sunday, and said help just might go a long way. The defense returns nose tackle Danny Shelton, who has been out since Thanksgiving with a leg injury, from injured reserve for their Week 17 matchup against the Minnesota Vikings. Though he is officially listed as questionable, it seems likely Detroit is activating him for a reason. And Shelton has been a key presence for the middle of the Lions’ run defense.
The Vikings, on the other hand, may not be finishing their season with a strong rushing performance. Star running back Dalvin Cook is away from the team this week following the passing of his father. That leaves Alexander Mattison, returning from injury, as well as Ameer Abdullah in the Vikings backfield.
Bold prediction of the week: Lions defense holds Vikings under 80 rushing yards
With the Vikings shorthanded in their backfield, it gives Shelton and the Lions defense a legitimate chance to stuff Minnesota up the middle. If that happens, the Vikings offense could turn to the passing game early and often against a Lions pass defense that is hobbled, humiliating, and, even when healthy, just bad. Star wide receiver Adam Thielen has exploded in a few games this season, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he finishes with a bang.
Perhaps I’m overhyping Shelton or just being wishful since it’s Week 17. If the Lions can pull this off, though, it’ll be quite the feat. The Vikings are averaging over 143 rushing yards per game, while the Lions have surrendered 135 on average. To shut down a team like the Vikings on the ground would be a positive note for this historically bad defense to finish on.